Free from fear or favour
No tracking. No cookies

More Than 130 Reform Candidates Ignoring Electoral Commission Rules on Anonymous Donations

Candidates have raised tens of thousands for Nigel Farage’s party despite failing to explain how they will vet donors, amid claims the party doesn’t have ‘millionaire’ funders

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage at a party event on June 27. Photo: ZUMA Press, Inc / Alamy
Reform Leader Nigel Farage at a party event on 27 June 2024. Photo: ZUMA Press, Inc/Alamy

Don’t miss a story

Sign up to the Behind the Headlines newsletter (and get a free copy of Byline Times in the post)

Byline Times can reveal that 136 Reform UK candidates are raising money from a crowdfunding platform that allows donors to keep their address secret and donate from abroad.

GoFundMe states that candidates using its platform to fundraise are responsible for contacting donors to obtain the information they need to check if a donation is legal. 

But only 21 out of the 157 Reform candidates using it make clear that they need additional details from donors on their fundraising pages or that they will vet donations. 

‘Labour Should Fight Nigel Farage in Clacton – We’re Sitting on a Democratic Powder Keg and the Reform Leader has the Match’

“We’ve heard a lot in the campaign about D-Day. If ever there was a time to fight them on the beaches, then this is it.”

Reform candidates have raised £99,730 on the platform at the time of writing, of which £82,065 has come from fundraisers without the necessary disclaimers.

GoFundMe said that it directs all candidates to the Electoral Commission’s rules when they register and told Byline Times that it is “important candidates fully understand the rules”.

“It is the candidate’s responsibility to collect required donor information,” it said. “We are able to pass on some information required by the Electoral Commission, collected during the donation process, and we can refund donations that can’t be verified.”

The elections watchdog requires candidates to state on their fundraising pages that they will check if donations are from a permissible source – someone who is listed on the electoral register or a company registered in the UK.

The Politics of Farage and Reform is No Joke of a Matter – The Established Media Must Learn Its Lessons and Start Holding Them to Account

The normalisation of racism and dog-whistles will only get worse if the press continues to treat Farage as an entertaining figure representing the ‘real views’ of the British people – it must stop, writes Byline Times’ Editor

Candidates must return donations if they are anonymous or if they don’t know the identity of the donor, under Electoral Commission rules.

In 2019, a probe by the watchdog found that Reform – then named the Brexit Party – had “a high and ongoing risk” of impermissible donations due to its online funding system.

The investigation came after concerns were raised that the party could be in breach of electoral law by allowing multiple donations potentially from outside of the UK. Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned at the time that “democracy is undermined when we have undeclared, unreported, untraceable payments being made to the Brexit Party”.

The party said that no rules were broken at the time and pledged to “embrace” recommendations on checking donors.

Reform Party Candidates Continue to Make Richard Tice’s Insistence the Party is not Far-Right Seem Questionable – Here’s More Examples

For the second time this week Byline Times exposes more Reform UK candidates sharing content from far-right influencers and commentators

More than a dozen of the Reform candidates fundraising on GoFundMe have also been reported to have made offensive or inappropriate comments on social media.

They include Grant StClair-Armstrong, the former candidate for North West Essex, who resigned after he was found to have written blog posts containing jokes using racial slurs. StClair-Armstrong raised £700 on the platform. Reform did not respond when asked if the funds will be returned.

Steve Beatty, the party’s candidate in Didcot and Wantage, who was reported to be Facebook ‘friends’ with a fascist leader, still has a live fundraiser on the platform and has secured £1,105. 

Jack Aaron, the Reform candidate for Welwyn Hatfield, continues to fundraise on the platform despite reportedly claiming that Adolf Hitler was “brilliant” at inspiring people into action.

Ken Ferguson’s GoFundMe page showing anonymous donations. Photo: GoFundMe

Ken Ferguson, the Reform candidate for Wirral West, has raised £2,745 on the platform, of which £2,500 has come from a single anonymous donation. Ferguson was reported to have previously liked an ‘anti-vax’ message on social media, as well as an Islamophobic tweet joking that Muslim men married 12 year olds, and a post denying climate change. He is one of eight Reform candidates who received individual donations of more than £1,000 but failed to include any disclaimers about vetting of donations.

One Reform candidate claimed on their fundraising page that “as a new political party we don’t have millionaire donors” – despite the party counting several billionaires and millionaires as donors.

Another claimed that Reform “does not have wealthy backing from businesses like the Tories” – despite the party having received more than £2 million from registered companies, according to the Electoral Commission.

Reform candidate Dennis Saunders is one of only a few party members to request full donor details on his GoFundMe page. Photo: GoFundMe/Dennis Saunders

Five Labour candidates appeared to be using the platform to fundraise and, of those, only two included the necessary disclaimers. The platform does not appear to have been used by any Conservative candidates.

The fundraising issue comes after a Channel 4 undercover investigation last Thursday caught Reform activists making racist and Islamophobic comments – including a remark about using people arriving by boat for “target practice” – and an apparent admission that the party has breached the local electoral campaign spending limit in Nigel Farage‘s Clacton seat.

It also follows a number of Byline Times stories on party members, some of which have led to candidates being dropped.

Reform UK Limited: The Political Business Brought to You by Billionaires

Despite its wealthy backers and blanket media coverage, few have peered under the bonnet of Reform UK. It’s time to take a look at its backers.

GoFundMe told Byline Times: “It is the candidate’s responsibility to collect required donor information, as well as for contacting us to refund disallowable donations that don’t have the required information.”

After elections, candidates must submit their donation reports to the local returning officer. If a candidate had accepted an impermissible donation, it would be a matter for the police to consider.

The Electoral Commission told Byline Times that it is “important that candidates comply with permissibility rules” and ensure “the permissibility of all donations over £50”.

How Nigel Farage, Major Media Outlets and Ofcom ‘Normalised Islamophobia and Then Justified It’

Farage would be cancelled if he said the same things about Jews as he does Muslims – yet he gets endless airtime

“As our guidance says, candidates should ensure that any crowdfunding webpage they are using contains information that explains that permissibility checks will be undertaken in compliance with the law and that information about donations, including donor details may be published,” it added.

While it is the “responsibility of candidates to ensure they are meeting their financial reporting obligations”, it has reached out to crowdfunding sites to “outline what information candidates need to collect”.

ENJOYING THIS ARTICLE? HELP US TO PRODUCE MORE

Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and help to support fearless, independent journalism that breaks stories, shapes the agenda and holds power to account.

We’re not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge-fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, please subscribe.

Just over a dozen Reform UK candidates are also using the website Crowdfunder for their election campaigns. Only two include a disclaimer stating that donations will be vetted. The platform requires all donors to provide a full address, unlike GoFundMe. 

Byline Times identified six Labour candidates using Crowdfunder, of which four had included a disclaimer in their pages. No Conservative candidates appeared to be using it.

Reform and Labour did not respond to requests for comment.


Written by

This article was filed under
, , , ,